The following is an article from the book Uncle John's Weird, Weird World: EPIC.
In 1997, when Roseanne viewers learned the ninth and final season was a fictional account of the family written by Roseanne, they were fuming mad. Why even tell a story if it never happened? More often than not, there’s a real-world explanation for why shows pull this stunt.
SHOW: Dallas (CBS, 1978–91)
DREAM: In the final episode of the seventh season in May 1985, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is run down by a car and killed. A year later in the eighth season finale, Bobby’s wife Pam (Victoria Principal) wakes to the sound of running water. She goes into the bathroom… and there’s Bobby, alive, taking a shower. His death—along with the entire eighth season—had been one long dream of Pam’s.
REALITY: Bobby was originally killed off because Duffy was bored with the role and wanted to leave the show. But he was also a big ratings draw, and Dallas dipped from #2 to #6 the following year, so producers begged Duffy to come back. Because he couldn’t find any better work, he did. (Never mind that Bobby’s return demolished logic—for example, several characters who left the show during the dream season, and who therefore didn’t really leave, remained gone.)
SHOW: Married…With Children (Fox, 1987–97)
DREAM: At the start of season 6, Peg (Katey Sagal) announces she’s pregnant. A few episodes later, Al (Ed O’Neill) becomes a private detective, solves a murder, earns $50,000, romances a beautiful heiress… and then wakes up to his old humdrum life. The season thus far, pregnancy included, had merely been Al Bundy’s crazy dream.
REALITY: Sagal’s character became pregnant only because Sagal did in real life. Sadly, she miscarried, so Peg’s pregnancy was hastily written out of the series and never talked about again.
SHOW: Life on Mars (ABC, 2008–09)
DREAM: This American remake of a British show ended much differently than the original. (Spoiler alert: In the British version, the main character was revealed to have been in a coma.) In the updated version, a New York City cop named Sam (Jason O’Mara) is hit by a car in 2008 and wakes up in 1973. He joins the NYPD and tries to find a way home, but keeps seeing flashes of his 2008 life. Sam can also see tiny robotic vehicles scurrying about. In the series finale, Sam learns that his 1973 world is a dream… and so was his 2008 world. Sam isn’t even a cop—he and the other characters are astronauts in the year 2035 on the first manned mission to Mars. The events of the show took place in a collective dream shared while they were all in an induced hibernative state to make the months-long flight go by faster.
REALITY: Why such a bizarre twist? The writers wanted a different ending than the U.K. version (to keep a surprise at the end for viewers who’d watched both series), and they wanted a finale that would truly surprise, but would still make sense to viewers. It also explained the cryptic title.
SHOW: Newhart (CBS, 1982–90)
DREAM: In the final episode of the series, Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) gets whacked in the head by a golf ball. The screen goes black, then a light turns on. Newhart is in bed. He says, “Honey, you won’t believe the dream I just had.” His wife wakes up and rolls over, and it’s not Joanna (Mary Frann), it’s Suzanne Pleshette, in character as Emily from Newhart’s previous series, The Bob Newhart Show. He tells her that he dreamed he was as an innkeeper in a small Vermont town, making all 184 episodes of the surreal Newhart—and all its characters, including Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl—nothing but a dream in the mind of Dr. Robert Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show.
REALITY: The dream idea came from Newhart’s wife, Ginnie. He liked it, saying it “really fit the show,” but was apprehensive because the hospital drama St. Elsewhere’s twist ending (it was all in the mind of an autistic boy) had received harsh criticism from viewers. But Newhart decided to film the ending just to see how it would play out. As the cameras began rolling, a facade was removed to reveal the bedroom set from Newhart’s former show…and the studio audience broke out into loud applause even before Pleshette’s surprise appearance. Right then, Newhart later said, he knew he’d made the right choice. TV Guide later named it “the most unexpected moment in the history of television.”
[Ed. note: Roseanne is set for an eight episode revival in 2018. So far, Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), John Goodman (Dan), Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Laurie Metcalf (Jackie), Michael Fishman (D.J.), Lecy Goranson (Becky), and Sara Chalke (also Becky) have signed on, which causes a temporal distortion as Dan was revealed in the final episode to have died in the show's last season. Barr once explained his potential return as Dan faking his own death, but it's very possible -and desirable- to explain it by having the entire ninth season (including Dan's death, the lottery win, and Roseanne's fiction writing) turn out to be ...a dream.]
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Weird, Weird World: EPIC.
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